Our Favorite Podcasts

We drive…a lot! We have racked up over 40,000 miles in the last year and a half and neither of us do well with idle minds so we constantly have something on the speakers including online radio, talk radio and podcasts. Below we list our top 5 podcasts that we listen to weekly without fail. We enjoy one so much that we recently went to a live show in Portland, ME!

Stuff You Missed in History Class

Hosted by Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey, Stuff You Missed in History Class is a hilarious podcast that brings historical events into the present day in an entertaining and funny way.

Suggested episode: The Bisbee Deportation

The Village Church

Although technically not a podcast, we find that keeping looped in with a church congregation while we are on the road and unable to attend a consistent church is extremely rewarding and balancing. The lead pastor, Matt Chandler, has an amazing story of deliverance from illness and sin and he teaches biblical principals in a no-nonsense style that is refreshing in today’s church climate. 

Suggested episode: All of them. Seriously, start at the beginning and follow the journey of this church as it grows in its biblical role as the bride of Christ.

The Dirtbag Diaries

Exactly as the name implies, The Dirtbag Diaries is an artful and well-produced podcast telling stories from the slopes, waves, hiking trails, and every other corner of the natural world. Stories are told by the writers of each story and tell of growth, defeat and overcoming trials of all shapes and sizes. 

Suggested episode: Winnebago Warriors

Freeakonomics Radio

What would happen if Economists ruled the world? Now you don’t have to wonder anymore. The award-winning book Freakonomics takes to the airways narrated and produced by writer Stephen Dubner. Co-Author Steven Levitt is an Economist at the University of Chicago is a regular guest along with many distinguished experts in fields from education, behavioral economics, healthcare and more.

Suggested episode: America’s Hidden Duopoly

Stuff You Should Know

Arguably the most entertaining of all of the podcasts that we listen to, Stuff You Should Know brings humor to a myriad of topics including history, technology, pop-culture and more. Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant are hilarious as their banter navigates the most interesting topics in podcasting.

Suggested episode: Iran-Contra Affair: Shady in the 80’s

Rachael’s Podcast Pick

Coffee Break-German

Want to learn a second language? Do you have some spare time where headphones are acceptable? Learn a language while listening to a podcast with the Coffee Break podcasts. Rachael uses Coffee Break-German to keep her German skills in check while we travel.

Zach’s Podcast Pick

Jocko Podcast

Former Navy Seal and leadership consultant Jocko Wilink interviews veterans, reviews books, and uses his vast knowledge and experience in combat to navigate the most pressing challenges of modern business. 

Honorable Mention

The Tim Ferris Show

Millionaire investor Tim Ferris breaks down top performers in various industries and professions and teases out the habits and practices that lead to success. If you are easily annoyed by product pitches and salesmanship, learn to fast forward through the first 5 minutes of Tim’s show.

That’s the list! Do you have a favorite podcast that you listen to while traveling? We would love to hear about your favorites, so leave a comment or send as an e-mail at okienomads@gmail.com

Whale Watching with Captain Mark in Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia

Rachael and I had one big regret from our time in Baja this winter, we didn’t do a whale watching tour. These massive mammals make colossal journeys along the coasts of North America and we only caught a glimpse of them from a beach near Cabo San Lucas. When we started planning our trip to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island, we decided that we would book a tour and take our chances seeing these creatures on the opposite end of the continent in St. Lawrence Bay.

Enter Captain Mark. When you research whale watching on Cape Breton Island, this shop comes up over and over- fantastic reviews of a fun and educational experience with a local who respects the animals and knows the area extremely well. Sit tight as this is another review about how AMAZING our time with Captain Mark was. 


Booking our trip was dead simple. Captain Mark’s website is super easy to use and processing was fast and secure. It took me less than five minutes to book our boat and are we glad that we did. The docks were littered with people who neglected to book early and were high and dry because they didn’t book early. Book early folks, Captain Mark fills up quickly. 

Pre-Adventure Check In

We arrived 30-minutes early as the instructions online had told us to and the staff got us checked in, provided a receipt and had us sit tight for life jackets and departure. The life jackets were top of the line and were the smaller CO2 filled variety. This was a pleasant departure from the big clunky orange jackets that we were expecting. 

Captain Mark greeted us on time and led us down to the boats. The pre-departure chat was informative and included all of the safety precautions about what to do if you go overboard or if the captain is rendered unresponsive. All required safety equipment was on board and we felt very secure in the Zodiac. 

Let’s talk about the boats for a minute. When researching, I was expecting a large boat (think lobster fishing boat) with a ton of people on board and a creeping slow engine. We chose Captain Mark’s because they utilize a smaller, faster, and much more environmentally friendly watercraft, a Zodiac. The Zodiac is a combination of inflatable pontoons and a rigid frame that is one of the most common short distance watercraft in the world. Organizations that rely on speedy and concise travel in the water like the US Navy Seals and environmental protection agencies from around the world use the Zodiac for good reason, it works. 

The smaller of the two Zodiacs available.

There are two Zodiac models available from Marks, the Northstar and the Tourmaster. The first is a smaller boat with outward facing seats and a smaller engine. In our case, this boat was captained by one of Captain Mark’s staff. The boat we booked was a bit bigger and had forward facing seats with 2 larger motors. The seats were as comfortable of seats as you could expect from a small ocean-vessel and the ride quality was extremely fun. 

We departed the harbor on time and in style as Captain Mark pinned the throttle and the Zodiac sprang to life with the bow high in the air and the passengers all smiling ear to ear. Despite the 4-5 foot swells, the boat handled the rough water well and we never felt unsafe or like we would fall overboard. 

The Tour

Once we got to open water we quickly spotted a family of pilot whales surfacing a short distance away. Every few seconds several pairs of whales would surface and spout from their blowholes. The benefit of the Zodiac over the larger vessels was obvious quickly, Captain Mark’s boats could simply get close to the animals quickly and turn off their motors in time to not disturb the animals. We drifted alongside this pod of pilot whales for around 30-minutes. Some would taper off to open water while others seemed to revel in the social interaction with humans and the attention that accompanied it.

The competing whale watching companies in the water at the same time as us were in larger boats, potentially old fishing boats. The boats seemed to rock more in the swells than the lighter Zodiac raft did and they were much slower, arriving to the site of the whales after they had long since left. We were glad that we were booked with Captain Mark.

After the first pod disappeared, we continued North and started to edge in closer to the shore before we came across a second large pod of pilot whales. These whales, much like the first pod, mostly stayed near the boat performing underwater turns and rolls before breaching close enough to the boat that we could feel the spray. I’m convinced we could have stayed with that pod all evening and they would have continued to put on a show for us.

We left the pod and turned toward the shore where the real beauty of the tour began to shine. The amount of unique local knowledge that Captain Mark shares on his tour is impressive- from old settlements that no longer exist to Buddhist monastery that offer a 3 year retreat on the cliffside of Cape Breton Island.

We were all smiles after our time with Captain Mark!

Captain Mark took his time navigating the coast and pointing out points of interest as well as an abundance of seals, eagles, and even some “wild” horses on an isolated beach. Mark seemed to be as involved in the local community as he was in his tour business and had stories to prove it. The boat ride itself was a fantastic adventure even if we hadn’t seen whales. The Zodiac is a blast to ride in and it made spotting and seeing the whales up close extremely easy. We had so much fun and we can’t wait to come back to Cape Breton just to enjoy Captain Mark’s tours.

To learn more about Captain Mark’s tours and to book your excursion check out their website: https://www.whaleandsealcruise.com.

July Travel Update

July has been an interesting month, to say the least. We said goodbye to family in South Dakota and began our slightly mad journey to the East coast. The journey was mad only because we chose to do it in the hottest month of the year in a bus without air conditioning. July was also a lot of driving and not a lot of enjoying locations on the map, hopefully August will slow down and cool off a bit. We are still on track to visit all 49 driveable states by 2020 and we knocked several off of the list in July.

A North Dakota National Park

We are on a journey to see all 50 states together and to take our bus to 49 of them, so a side trip to North Dakota was needed. ND gets a lot of hate from the other states and it is pretty obvious why…there is not a lot there. One place worth mention and a visit if you are close is Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Unfortunately for us, our vehicle was too big to pass through the construction area on the road in the park so we only got to see a portion of Teddy’s park.

Wild Horse herd at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The claim to fame of the park is its wild horse herd, which we were lucky enough to see in our short time there. These some 1000 horses roam free here and are truly something to behold. Like most of the plains, there are a ton of prairie dogs and bison to see roaming the banks of the Missouri River. The landscape and horses make a visit to this park the MOST interesting thing that one could do when visiting North Dakota, and I say that in the nicest way possible. 

Headwaters of Big Muddy

Due to the time of year that we are crossing the country, most of the things that we would like to do in Minnesota are in the far-north and simply not an option right now. We have plans for a Boundary Waters trip someday that will allow us to explore Minnesota more in-depth. An attraction that we did get to visit in Minnesota was Itasca State Park near Bemidji. Lake Itasca is the start of the Mississippi River and at the headwaters Big Muddy is a simple 8-foot wide stream. 

The Mighty Mississippi starts here!
Itasca State Park is riddled with bike trails

The park is extremely nice and we gladly paid for camping to have access to the showers and water fill up. The bike trails that run through the park were also a super nice way to go check out the mighty Mississippi without having to move the bus.

Caves in Iowa?

 Another state on our list that was relatively close to our route was Iowa. Although we would have loved to hang around for RAGBRAI (on our bucket list for sure) the only other thing that we found of interest to do in Iowa was to go caving. You read that right, we found a cave to explore in IOWA! It would be unfair to compare these caves to the caves we just explored in South Dakota as they are completely different types of caves and these are not nearly as elaborate or as well-preserved as the caves in South Dakota.
We hiked all over the small Maquoketa Caves State Parkand had mostly free rein of the some 10-12 caves in the valley. We were pleasantly surprised by the lack on any real rules or regulations in the park and it was pretty much chaos compared to the National Park managed caves that we visited in June. Would I travel across the midwest to walk around these caves in East Central Iowa? No. But I would stop in on my way to other places on the East Coast. 

This was THE only cool place to hang out in Iowa

Iowa was also a really good stop to get my stitches removed from my misadventure in SD with a table saw. It cost $2500 to stitch my finger in South Dakota and only $97 to remove the stitches in Iowa. 

Newest US National Park in Indiana

I too have been seeing the buzz all over social media about Indiana finally having a National Park, Indiana Dunes National Park. Previously designated a Lakeshore, the National Park Service has simply slapped a Nat’l Park sign on the entrance and has neglected to do much of anything else. We spent the day hanging out on the beach and attempting to enjoy the waves of Lake Michigan lapping on the sand. In true National Park style, there were thousands of people in the park and no accommodations had been made for extra trash or more porta-potties and parking at 8AM was a nightmare for a 22-foot long school bus. 

We still had a good time as we tend to do just about anywhere, but we hope the NPS invests in Indiana before the next time we visit. The BEST part about our trip across the midwest was getting to meet up with a bunch of Rachael’s extended family, most of whom I (Zach) had never met. We were welcomed in to the air conditioning, thankfully, and we got to go out to lunch with most of the Fort Wayne cousins. It was an absolute treat and we now have a reason to come back to Northeast Indiana!

Bay City Bust

We made a mistake- We should have driven the West Coast of Michigan and explored the Upper Peninsula for a couple of weeks while a heat wave attacked the midwest, but we didn’t. Instead we wanted to explore part of Ontario so we drove through the least pretty and most boring section of Michigan, the Southeast. I had visited Bay City as a kid and remember it being a type of coastal town with pretty boats, I was twelve after all. We made the drive to Bay City to find a ghost town. Shops were closed in the middle of the day, streets were empty, and it just seemed like nothing had happened here in a long time, perhaps since I was there as a twelve year old. 

We hung out by the river and got some work done but soon made plans to escape Michigan and head to Canada, at least we would have Tim Hortons to console us. And console us it did. Although Tim Hortons sold to the company that owns Burger King, we will still continue to patronize them as long as they continue to serve delicious crullers and affordable coffee.

Shortest International Visit EVER

Entering into Canada north of Detroit was a really smooth border crossing. Something that always happens in our bus, people tend to think we smoke weed, which we don’t. No huge political stance or moral objections to it, it’s just not our thing. The border agent seemed to think we looked like drug users and informed us several times that weed was legal in Michigan and in Canada, we simply needed to declare it, only we had nothing to declare. Ahh the joys of living in a school bus and having long hair!

We spent a few days in Canada lounging along the North Shore of Lake Erie in the little town of Port Stanley. This town was the perfect place to charge the batteries and sit in the cold lake while record highs smacked the Midwest and Northeast. We found public camping near a beach and road our bikes or walked all over town and worked in a nearby coffee shop when we needed to. It was a pleasant couple of days. 

Niagara Falls was the other reason that we wanted to cross Ontario and we were not disappointed. Although Niagara is a haven for tourists, the falls are still beautiful, especially from the Canadian side. After exploring around the falls, we prepared for another breezy border crossing back into the states and we suddenly found ourselves in New York!

Upstate New York

Upstate New York is a really interesting place to visit. The bulk of attractions in Upstate revolve around the lakes region of the Finger Lakes, Lake Champlain, and Adirondack Park. New York is also home to the Number 1 State Park in the United States, Letchworth State Park and was the site of the Winter Olympic Games in the 80’s.

As is the case with most of the Eastern US, public land is rare, but we found several good camping spots and explored the North end of the state, one of which was next to a retired fire tower. Unfortunately, we did not have a ton of time to spend in New York and hopefully we can come back and spend a bit more time when the weather is cooler.

Vermont and New Hampshire

 Despite the challenges of camping for free in VT and NH, we still managed to see some sites like the Ben and Jerry’s. Factory, the Green Mountain National Forest, White Mountain National Forest, and beautiful landscapes of dense green forest along the way. We found there were simply too many people touristing for our speed. Also, the heat was a bit much. The temperature was in the 90’s during the day and high 70’s at night and in a bus with no AC, that is simply too hot. 

We will likely make a weekend trip to Vermont and New Hampshire in the fall some day, but for now we are heading North!

How to Improve the Handling, Steering, and Ride Quality of Your Van, Skoolie, or RV

Originally our skoolie handled like a boat, it stills does. But now it handles like an appropriately nimble boat. We were constantly having to take turns much slower than we should have to prevent the entire bus from feeling like it was tipping over. Off-road the bus was a mess. Although it is built on a similar chassis to the Express Van and Silverado, it behaved oddly off-road with a 10,000 lbs GVWR. Every obstacle (think small rock or pothole) on forest service roads would create a lean and sway that was annoying, dangerous, and really inconvenient to handle behind the wheel. After a long day of driving like this, the person driving is completely spent which defeats the purpose of traveling in the first place. This will be a simple article walking you through how we improved the handling in our short skoolie conversion without breaking the bank.

Continue reading “How to Improve the Handling, Steering, and Ride Quality of Your Van, Skoolie, or RV”

Welcome to Cave Country: Exploring the Caves of South Dakota

The Black Hills of South Dakota are known for a few things including Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial (insert link) and some of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country. What most don’t know about Western South Dakota is that it is home to not just one, but two MASSIVE cave systems. We took the plunge (see what I did there?) and took tours at both Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument, both near Custer, SD. 

Wind Cave National Park

During our time in the Black Hills, we had a day with really bad weather in the forecast so we opted to visit Wind Cave National Park, about 22 miles south of Custer, SD. Arriving at the park from the North, we were greeted into the park by a regularly occurring herd of bison near the park entrance. The Wind Cave herd is one of only 4 bison herds in North America that is relatively pure and walks freely on public land. The number of bison in the Wind Cave herd are 250-400 strong and a large portion of the herd spends most of the summer along Highway 385, near the Visitor Center. It is rumored that the herd will even perform a “South Dakota Car Wash” of your vehicle in the spring if your vehicle is carrying delicious salt on the exterior of your vehicle, by licking the salt off of your car.

Bison grazing in the grassland of Wind Cave National Park

The park Visitor Center is very mild and boasts standard amenities such as bathrooms, a gift shop, and a small naturalists display of wildlife and history from the area. Despite the beauty of the grassland above and the size of the bison herd, the main attraction to the park actually lies below ground, within its 150+ miles of discovered cave passageways. 
The passageways of Wind Cave are unique for a couple of reasons.

First, Wind Cave contains over 95 percent of the world’s boxwork formations. Unlike formations in other popular cave systems that rely on water to drip down the rock and deposit minerals, boxwork was already present in the rock and was simply refined by the water of a once present underground lake. The result, a beautiful lace-like mesh network of sediment that makes Wind Cave one of the densest caves in the world. 

Detail photo of boxwork formation

Second, Wind Cave is the 7th longest cave in the world even though the footprint of the cave system is contained within only a couple of square miles. While navigating the passageways you realize the scale of the cave and how the distance is accomplished, tunnels veer in every direction from the main tunnels and rooms. It is easy to understand why some of the cave is still not explored even to this day. 
The best part about a visit to Wind Cave National Park is getting to tour the caves themselves!

For more information on tours, visit the National Park Service website.

The largest room on our tour of Wind Cave

We chose the Fairgrounds Tour and were really happy with our choice. Our tour guide, Ranger Justin was excellent and had a very well-rounded knowledge of the cave and its history. On our tour, we meandered around the cave, crouching but never crawling, and had the opportunity to see the infamous box formation and multiple instances of frostwork. This cave was pretty tight in some places, so those that get claustrophobic should probably stay about ground. Interestingly enough there was a major lack of the two things that I expected to see in the cave: bats and water. The bats apparently hang out around the natural entrance because food and navigation is easy. Water is missing from the majority of the cave due to the lowering water table and at one point, the entire cave was filled with water.

Jewel Cave National Monument

Different from Wind Cave in about as many ways as two caves can differ that are in the same county, Jewel Cave was a very different experience after visiting Wind Cave. Jewel cave is longer and much more cavernous than Wind Cave. Jewel Cave is also longer than Wind Cave at a length of over 200 miles of discovered caves passageways. The National Park Service hosts tours that allow you to explore different areas of the cave and you can check those out on the NPS website

Boxwork formations line the ceiling of Jewel Cave

The cave was discovered in 1909 when prospectors felt cool air blowing out from the cave and tours began in 1939, hosted by the NPS. 
The geologic features are not nearly as rare as those that occur in Wind Cave, but there is still a few instances of box work and frost work. The most predominant crystal feature on the walls of Jewel Cave is the Spar Crystal. The Spar Crystal formations cover most of the cave that we saw on our tour with the occasional appearance of flowstone, frost work, and box work throughout. We even got the chance to see some “Cave Bacon” which is a cave feature often found in caves in the Eastern US.

Cave Bacon is prominent in one section of the cave tour.

Our tour guide was exceptional and had a deep knowledge (see what I did there) of the cave and it’s history. We took the Scenic Tour that lasts approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes and navigates 723 stair steps. The tour is listed by the park service as moderately strenuous, which translates to easy if you are in decent physical shape. 

Okienomads Travel Tip- Arrive at Jewel Cave when it opens to purchase your tour passes first thing for later in the day, then take off to Hell Canyon (Black Hills National Forest) just down the road for a pleasant stroll through the canyon that lies above the surface of Jewel Cave. 

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Gear Review- Oveja Negra 1/2 Frame Bag

The simple things in life tend to make the most joy. I was skeptical of the usefulness of bike packing frame bags for a long time before riding with my uncle in South Dakota last Fall on his Salsa Warbird equipped with a Revelate Tangle 1/2 frame bag. I had a flat about 20 miles into our ride and my uncle wanted to show off his new tire pressure gauge (also awesome but more on that later), he reached into his frame bag and it was like a scene from Mary Poppins…stuff just kept coming out. He pulled out his air gauge, a Clif Bar, and I caught a glimpse of the rest of his kit stuffed in there and I was a little impressed. That awkward dead space above a traditional bottle case setup was now useful!

I started shopping around using the following criteria: the bag had to be made in a small shop (think not sweat shop), it had to be a spacious 1/2 bag, and it needed to be at least water resistant. I quickly came across my selection, the Oveja Negra 1/2 Frame Bag. Oveja Negra is a relatively small shop in Salida, CO and they make truly cool products in a seriously cool place! 

Below are the bag specification from the Oveja Negra website:

  • Full zip main compartment (drive side)
  • Half zip tool pocket (non-drive side)
  • Hook & loop closure hydration/wire port 
  • Adjustable/removable Velcro® One-Wrap® top tube straps allow for a more customized fit
  • YKK® Uretek water resistant zippers
  • X-pac® VX21/VX42 water resistant face fabrics
  • Cordura® abrasion resistant fabric along tubing
  • MIL-SPEC webbing and binding
  • High Density closed-cell foam padding along down tube
  • Reflective Oveja Negra logo
  • MADE IN THE U.S.A. of domestic and imported materials

Build Quality & Design

The craftsmanship of this bag is really high quality and it shows right out of the box. All of the zippers and fabrics are water-resistant and look/function great! I opted for MultiCam Camo as the color matches my Revelate Designs seat bag, but there are 6 other colors available and if you reach out, I am sure Oveja Negra could whip up something custom. The zippers pull and function as they should and the placement of the zippers is really well-thought out and accessible from the saddle. 

One of my favorite features of the 1/2 frame bag is the high-contrast interior fabric that really stands out compared to the outer fabric and the interior items that you will be reaching for. I was unsure about the bright green initially, but after using it once it made perfect sense!

Extra Touches

There are several pieces of the bag that really set the Oveja Negra bag apart from the rest of the pack. First, it looks really good! The reflective Logo and adjustable velcro make the bag really look good and function well on the bike. Second, the inclusion of a bike pump/tent pole strap in the bottom of the bag is a big deal. My old school long frame pump fits perfectly in the straps. The zippers have covers where they close for extra moisture resistance and there is even a hydration bladder port for running a large bladder in the frame bag. So many extra touches made this bag really stand out. 

An extra large size bag fit my 62cm Surly Disc Trucker really well and the adjustability of the velcro one-wrap makes this bag extremely adaptable for other bikes that I ride including my single speed. I am beyond excited about this bag and after almost 200 miles of use, I will not ride another gravel, touring, bikepacking or commuting bike without one of these bags strapped to it! 

To purchase or see more specs/measurements head over to the Oveja Negra website.

Crazy Horse…a Crazy Monument Indeed

What is the Crazy Horse Memorial?

The Crazy Horse Memorial is an ongoing sculpture, the largest in the world, that began in 1948 to honor Sioux legend and hero “Curly” Crazy Horse. The project, a massive stone sculpture depicting Crazy Horse atop his steed facing East, dominates the hillside of the Black Hills North of Custer, South Dakota very similarly to Mount Rushmore National Monument nearby. Once completed, the monument will stand over 600 feet long and over 500 feet tall, making it the largest sculpture in the world by far. You will be able to fit Mount Rushmore inside of it with room to spare!

Work began in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski and even though Ziolkowski passed away in 1982, work has picked up in recent recent years with support from the non-profit organization Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. The foundations is a registered non-profit 501(c)3 organization that manages the monument as well as the The Indian University of North America and The Native American Educational and Cultural Center whose vision is to educate tribal youth and the public at large on the history of the Black Hills and Native Americans in general. To read more about the educational efforts taking place please visit the websites for both organizations at https://crazyhorsememorial.org/dream.

Fun Fact- Crazy Horse is historically understood to have never had his photo taken, which might make carving a giant sculpture of his head a matter of interpretation.

Who was Crazy Horse and Why Does He Get a Monument?

Crazy Horse was a famous Oglala Sioux warrior most known for his part in defeating General George Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Curly led a fascinating life of pushing the tribal status quo in an effort to protect his homeland from encroaching white interests under the guise of manifest destiny.

The Black Hills in Western South Dakota were designated by the U.S. Government as Sioux land in the Treaty of Laramie in 1851. As long as the native population allowed safe passage of travelers on the Oregon and Bozeman Trails, the land would remain theirs and protected from interference from whites. As is the case with nearly every treaty signed during the plains wars, the US did not keep its side of the bargain and sought gold interests in the Black Hills, despite its sovereign status. 

Crazy Horse fought the encroaching whites for most of his life as needed to protect his tribe. Crazy Horse went to battle under Oglala Chief Red Cloud from 1865-1868 and served  as a decoy in the Battle of the Hundred In The Hands where 81 U.S. soldiers were defeated in an ambush in 1866. Crazy Horse is perhaps most known for his bravery and fighting skill in the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. Crazy Horse led a group of troops to flank famous U.S. General George Custer. Custer was unable to secure high-ground and was cut-down by Crazy Horse and his troops when it is reported that Custer fired his last shot. 

To learn more about the relationship and similarities between Custer and Crazy Horse, check out the Stephen Ambrose book, Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parellel Lives of Two American Warriors. Ambrose is the award-winning author of Band of Brothers and provides an unbiased account of the converging lives of Custer and Crazy Horse throughout the 1800’s.
Crazy Horse was one of the last of the Indians to be arrested after most of his land and nearly all of the wildlife had been removed from the area surrounding the Black Hills. Crazy Horse was lied to repeatedly as a captive and was eventually run through with a bayonet in a jail-cell struggle. Crazy Horse embodied bravery and courage and generations will look to his memorial for centuries and remember his fight for freedom. 

How Can I See the Crazy Horse Memorial?

The Crazy Horse sculpture is massive and beautiful and arguably the best way to see the monument up-close is to participate in the semi-annual two-day event called Volksmarch. The Volksmarch is a semi-annual hiking event hosted by the American Volkssport Association (AVA) that takes place in the Spring (June 1-2) and the Fall (September 29th). Thousands of hikers flock to the monument to participate in one of the largest volksmarches in the world and it is truly a sight to see. We don’t normally enjoy hiking with a large number of people, but the crowds at Crazy Horse are manageable and not annoying in the way that National Parks can be. 

Admission to the Volksmarch is 3-4 non-perishable canned goods per hiker, as a donation to the local food bank and a $3 hiking fee paid to the AVA Black Hills chapter. Both donations are small and help these organizations in a HUGE way, so we were happy to donate. Don’t pack any water and instead bring some cash in small bills to purchase water, gatorade and snacks from the various organizations fundraising at the 4 checkpoints along the way. The Boy Scouts were marking our tickets and selling goodies and the Custer High School Volleyball team was taking our money for delicious baked goods and gatorade just before the top of the monument. 

Thanks for reading our blog post, it truly means a lot! There are affiliate links in this article that if you click on them, it doesn’t cost you any more and Amazon will send a portion of your purchase amount to us as a commission. Thanks for helping to keep us on the road!

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First Impression: Surly Disc Trucker Do-It-All Bike

This is my initial impression of owning and riding the Surly Disc Trucker. I am not affiliated with Surly in any way. I have been searching for a used version of this bike for a few years and I finally found one in Montana and shipped it across country for a steal of a deal. I will post a long term review after peddling the DT for a considerable time and update with a link here. Although my riding experience is with a 2012 model that I purchased used, I will be using specs from the current new Surly Disc Trucker.

Surly Disc Trucker Overview

Bike tourers have long since flocked to the Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) as a reliable, strong, and simple touring bike for excursions across continents or for grocery runs down the street. Surly upped the ante in the mid 2010’s with the introduction of the Surly Disc Trucker, the disc version of the Long Haul Trucker. Similarities abound between the two bikes with the major difference being the braking system. The LHT is equipped with V-brakes and is compatible with cantilever brakes whereas the DT uses a mechanical disc brake system.

The DT is available in 26″ tires for smaller framed riders as well as 700c tires for normal to tall riders. The biggest area that Surly was ahead of the game is what they call “Fatties Fit Fine”, a slogan printed on the side of the bike meaning that larger than normal tires fit this bike. The 26″ version can fit up to 26×2.1″ tires (with or w/out fenders) and the 700c version can fit 700×50 or 29×2.0″. I have fitted my DT with 29×1.8 Kenda Slant Six mountain bike tires and the size is perfect as a do-it-all one bike quiver. I can smash a long gravel ride or ride smooth single track with the same tires. I do have a spare set of wheels that will be equipped with touring tires in the mid-30c range for long tours or dirt road bikepacking without singletrack. The Alex Adventurer wheels that come on the Disc Trucker are solid and have been known to be setup tubeless with a ghetto setup and the right tires.

Components on the Trucker are high quality without jeopardizing the affordable nature of the bike. Compromises were made in places where possible (brake levers and saddle) and solid components were used in places that compromises shouldn’t exist (hubs and drivetrain). Most users are going to replace their saddle anyways as the WTB Volt is truly uncomfortable on long rides. I replaced my Trucker saddle with a Selle Anatomica. Expect a gear review on this saddle soon as it is my favorite all-around saddle for any riding activity.

What I Like About the Disk Trucker

  • The Disk Trucker is Tough- With a steel frame and simple components, the DT is designed to be a rock solid performer in all conditions. Repairs are made easy by the steel frame and widely available and common parts that can be found in bike shops around the world.
  • The Disk Trucker is a Surly- The trucker is sold in tons of countries around the world and is a favorite of tourers traveling around the world for a reason. These bikes last and perform well. Plain and simple.
  • The Disk Trucker is Customizable- Want to take a bike tour of South America? Strap on some racks and panniers and start peddling South. Want to ride some mellow singletrack? Lose the racks and fit a fat-ish tire and get after it. There is very little that this bike can’t do and there is a lot that this bike does really well!

What I Dislike About the Disk Trucker

Nothing. Seriously, nothing. I am a pretty critical person and I can find fault in almost any gear, but for what this bike is, it’s perfect for my uses. Obviously, components can be upgraded to suit your riding style or needs, but the bike is ready to go out of the box. If you expect speed and agility that comes from a carbon race bike, you will be disappointed. If you expect a squishy downhill bike, you will also be very sad. However, if you expect a solid, jack of all trades workhorse, you will enjoy getting on your Surly Disk Trucker everyday like I do.

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Okienomads at Overland Expo 2019 WEST

We are super excited and extremely humbled to be a part of the programing at Overland Expo 2019 WEST. If you don’t know what Overland Expo is, start HERE.

OX is the premier overlanding event in North America with shows in Flagstaff, AZ and on the East Coast at a new, all-weather venue in Fall 2019. Overland Expo attracts hundreds of vendors from the overlanding segment, hundreds of world-travelers telling their stories, and thousands of attendees coming to learn new skills, buy new gear, and meet lifelong friends.

We are really pumped that we will both be involved in programs available in the Overland Experience class schedule and a roundtable that is available to all attendees. Our roundtable discussion is with two other traveling couples Matt & Amie of The Traveling Together Journal and Marisa and Tim of Notiers’s Frontiers. Both couples have done some serious traveling and we look forward to hanging out and chatting about our challenges and experiences living full-time on the road.

Rachael will be teaching a couple of yoga classes geared toward traveling. In “No Mat Yoga”, Rachael will be walking the class through a yoga flow that is designed to relieve some of the issues that come from spending long days in the truck or on the bike. Often times a yoga mat takes up too much room to bring along, so this entire flow will be sans yoga mat.

Her second class, “Recovery Yoga” will focus on relaxing and relieving tension that can often arise after a long day on the trail. The stretch-intensive flow will be beginner friendly and doable for even the least flexible of the EXPO crowd (her husband included). Vehicles aren’t the only ones that need recovery!

Overland Expo is a great place to meet new friends, try out that roof top tent you have been shopping for, and learn new skills to make your time on the road that much better. Tickets are for sale HERE now!

FREE National Geographic Quadrangle Maps

If you are like us, you spend a fair bit of time in the woods and often times a good map of the area that you are exploring is hard to find. We use GPS often, but sometimes we enjoy route planning on a good, ole fashioned paper map. A good practice that we have started its when taking off into the woods is to keep a paper copy of our map stuffed in a ziplock baggy somewhere on our person in case of GPS failure, dead batteries, etc. One of our favorite maps is the National Geographic Quad and now you can download them for FREE!

 The Nat Geo 7.5 minute quad is a highly detailed topographic map style that was created and used by the United State Geological Survey for decades. These maps are available for anywhere in the continental US and did we mention they are FREE.  Keep in mind that the USGS hasn’t updated these maps in a few years, so some landscapes may have changes a bit, but how much can a landscape really change?

How to Download Free Nat Geo Quad PDF’s
To download, navigate over to the National Geographic PDF Quads Page.
Enter an e-mail address to sign up, nothing is FREE anymore! You can always unsubscribe when they start sending you e-mails.

Find the area you want to explore on the map or search for a particular area.

Click a red box to open a new window which will contain an overview map of the 4 quads that your selected red box borders as well as the 4 individual quads themselves. 

That’s it! A super easy and extremely helpful tool for route planning and backcountry exploration. We are already planning out some backcountry routes for 2019 and you should too! 

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